Tuesday, 15 February 2011
FC Barcelona (h) preview
Tomorrow Arsenal go up against the best team in the World. There can be no denying that Barcelona are the best there is right now. Does it make them an unbeatable entity? No way. Last season we were destroyed in three-quarters of the tie. At home, in the first-half, only Manuel Almunia kept us in it. In the second-half Arsenal attacked with pace upon the introduction of Theo Walcott. Such was Walcott's impact that Lionel Messi has stated that he is the player Barcelona fear from Arsenal - they do not like to play against Theo's searing pace. The second-leg was a one-man masterclass from Messi. He is the best player in the World and he produced his career performance (to date) in that match. Arsenal, though, should not go in to the tie fearing a repeat from the Argentinian.
Last season the Arsenal team for the second-leg included Silvestre, Denilson, Diaby and Bendtner. This season we will line up with Djourou, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas and Van Persie (okay, Sagna will be replaced by Eboue at right-back for the game tomorrow) so it is undeniable that this Arsenal team is in a different league to last season's incarnation. In the first-leg last year we were scuppered by injury to Gallas and Arshavin, even before Fabregas broke his leg in scoring the equaliser.
I always find it amusing that Barcelona are considered to have great defenders. Daniel Alves can not (and does not) defend to save his life, Puyol and Pique are awful when on the back-foot (and Puyol is to be replaced at centre-half by the severely over-rated Eric Abidal) while Maxwell had no answer to Theo last season, and hopefully won't this year either. Then there is Victor Valdes in goal - third choice in the Spain pecking order. The problem, of course, is getting enough of the ball to get at the weak links at the back.
What Barcelona do better than anyone, apart from their pace and passing being second to none, is work like Trojans when the opposition are in possession. The game at our place last season was an object lesson in how to win the ball back without resorting to Allardyce-type kicking. I think most of the Arsenal fans marvelled at Barcelona's work-ethic even more than their football. There are some rare occasions when one has to accept the opposition are too good, and last season against them was such a moment.
FC Barcelona's motto is Mes Que Un Club (More Than A Club). Undoubtedly this is true. As with all major clubs Barcelona is a way of life to its followers. But those guys taking the field for them are just men, capable of being beaten. Arsenal have plenty of their own attacking quality. In the shape of Fabregas, Van Persie, Wilshere, Arshavin, Walcott and Nasri we have the players to beat Barcelona. It will be hard work, and it will NEED hard work, but Arsenal can do it.
Roll on tomorrow night.